My wife is so much smarter than me, especially when it comes to relational and emotional issues. She joined me for this message and we shared some pieces of our own marriage struggle as we taught biblical truth about how to stay married for the long haul.
Marriage is an adventure filled with up’s and down’s, unexpected changes, new opportunities, and challenges of all shapes and sizes. Most couples get into marriage with the expectation that their spouse will never change. We think the guy or girl who made promises to us on our wedding day will not only be faithful to us, but faithful to remain just the way they are.But people live through seasons. Marriages go through seasons. Men and women change. We have dreams. Then we have kids. And we have careers. We have changing preferences, new directions, and a mind that is always being conditioned by our experiences. We change. So it’s understandable if you feel disappointed today that things don’t seem to be going as expected in your marriage. So here’s something new to expect… expect things to change.
As a Pastor, I often have the opportunity to sit down with couples, or more commonly, husbands, and talk about marital problems. I’m often asked permission, in a sense, to pursue divorce for reasons that are outside of the Bible’s parameters for doing so. And the most common reasons include…
- We’ve just grown apart.
- We’re not who we used to be.
- I thought we were compatible but we just don’t get along.
- We can’t communicate… handle conflict… or come to agreement.
The conflict usually involves sex, money, kids, or even issues such as politics or religion. But unless your are currently enduring an abusive situation (in which case, I would advise you to flee without hesitation), your marriage is worth the fight!
What about infidelity? Yes, Jesus mentioned that the Bible makes room for sinful people to dissolve a marriage when it is fractured beyond repair by adultery, but the Bible still doesn’t command us to divorce under such circumstances. Instead, you should know that your marriage is worth fighting for!
And when I say “fighting for” I mean that your marriage is so important that the energy you expend, the self-discipline and self-denial you practice, the tireless, sleepless nights of worry and anxiety and the deep valleys of disappointment can all be embraced as worth it when what is at stake is the vows you’ve made to your spouse.
You may or may not have married the right person, but if you stood before God and promised your life to someone, you are married to the right person.
I know this blog post is too brief. I’m not addressing all the objections that are, perhaps, welling up in your throat right now. What if we just can’t stop fighting? What if I keep trying to show grace just to get stung again? What if I’ve tried and failed a thousand times?
I know. Those questions are rooted in deep pain. I was there once. Not too many years ago, Angie and I went through one of the darkest times I’ve ever experienced. I was depressed and selfish and angry. There have been moments I wouldn’t have blamed her at all for leaving. But she stayed. And we stayed at it. And we’re far from perfect and certainly have a lot to learn but one lesson under my belt is this… she’s worth fighting for! My marriage is worth fighting for!
What does “fighting” look like? It can include many things, but here’s a partial list. Don’t give up until you’ve tried these things repeatedly…
- Confession of all secrets.
- Honesty about all disappointment.
- Respecting a less-than-respectable spouse.
- Loving a less-than-lovable spouse.
- Counseling (we’ve done it and highly recommend it).
- More repentance.
- Affection, when it feels awkward.
- Sex, when it seems like a chore (consensual, obviously).
- Praying together even when you feel like a hypocrite.
- More counseling.
- Attending church together, even after a fight.
- More repentance, and humbling, and apologies.
- Acts of service that are under-appreciated.
- Forgiving what might seem unforgivable.
- Marriage retreats.
- Books on marriage.
- Mentoring by an older couple.
- Accountability with a couple of close friends.
- More repentance, and more counseling.
My wife has shown me far more grace than the rest of the world may ever believe. More importantly, God has shown us both far more grace than we could possibly deserve. And at the end of the day, THAT’s the secret sauce to fighting for your marriage. Grace. God’s grace. More of God’s grace. More repentance, and grace, and forgiveness, and starting over again and again.
Yes, you ARE married to the right person. Keep fighting.
On June 14, 1997, I married Angie Kirk, the most amazing woman on earth! The last eighteen years have been an adventure. We left home to go to college together and got engaged a little over a month into our freshmen year. That next spring I started pastoring a small church and Angie went back to Kentucky for the summer to finish planning our wedding. I cruised into town just a couple of days before the big event after all the hard work was done and took my beautiful bride as my wedded wife.
We’ve lived through a number of significant changes since then. Angie became a social worker, earning her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the field. She worked in Kentucky recruiting and training foster and adoptive families, offered therapy to foster families and children, and now serves Grace Hills doing counseling, women’s ministry, and more.
I served as Pastor of a couple of small, rural churches when I was way too young to know what I was doing and then enjoyed eight great years leading a church in my hometown. I led a church in Northwest Arkansas for five years and then we headed west to California where we joined the staff of Saddleback Church and lived a bit of west coast life.
Together, we took a big leap four years ago and moved back to Northwest Arkansas to plant Grace Hills, which has continued to change our lives in radical ways. We’ve had three precious kids along the way. Ella, beautiful, smart, and sweet was our special, grace-gift from God. Sam, tender-hearted and brave, was an answer to years of praying and struggling through secondary infertility, miscarriages, and a lot of waiting on God. And Drew, wild and joy-filled, was our big surprise!!
Before I get to my eighteen big words of advice, here’s what I’ve noticed in the last few years of our life together:
- Life has become more of an adventure as we’ve loosened up and lived it to the full.
- We’re closer than ever, mainly because we’ve dealt with things that could’ve torn us apart.
- The best is yet to come for us as a couple, as a family, and especially in eternity.
Let me stop and interject that in too many ways, I’ve blown it as a married guy over the last eighteen years. But the grace of God has been at work in me, in my wife, and in our relationship. She’s shown me forgiveness, love, and respect and it’s changed me radically from who I once was. And I’m still on the journey, hoping to become the man she deserves in this life. Angie amazes me more today than ever.
So to you who may be early on in the journey – single and searching, engaged, or newlywed – here are eighteen of the most important things I think I’ve learned in the last eighteen years.
In 2013, God was good. But that’s true every year, isn’t it? His good character never changes. Ever.
But life changes for us, and it changes in our world. And through that constant condition of change, God’s goodness carries us. I’m reflecting this morning on how our world has changed and how my life has changed in the last year, and it’s been a BIG year! Let me celebrate a few things…
And he’s precious. I don’t mean to brag but… well, okay I DO mean to brag… Drew is probably the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. He smiles and laughs and lights up a room with his happy eyes. He goes days without crying, loves people, and has a contagious belly laugh that infects others with joy.
We have two other children who are awesome. Ella is smart, sweet, and loves Jesus. She tells everyone about her faith and her church and she’s growing up into a godly young woman! She’s the daughter of my dreams. Sam is, well, Sam. He’s cool, sweet, and funny. He’s hyper, dangerous, and wild. He’s all “boy.”
We finally got married.
Okay, that subheading was for shock purposes. We’ve been married 16 years and I think we’ve hit a stride and grown this past year in ways that make me feel like a newlywed. Angie is the love of my life. As I wrote in the dedication page of my new book, Angie is the love of my life, whom God has used to re-wire me in all the right ways.
Our marriage has gone through a lot of maturing. There were moments when Angie would say that “we’re in the fight of our lives.” We both saw that season as both the best and the hardest period of our lives as a couple. And in God’s grace, we’ve found a stride.
I adore my wife. And in 2013, I fell harder in love with her than ever. I feel as if I married her all over again. And if I could, I would!
We’ve continued planting a church.
We’re life-ers. In other words, we’ve been planting Grace Hills with the intention of retiring or dying while serving northwest Arkansas. So it’s time to officially announce my retirement!… tentatively effective in the summer of 2042.
In the last year, we’ve added Meredith (who leads our Kids’ ministry), Jorge (who leads in outreach and local missions), and Angie (who directs our operations and recovery ministry plans) to our staff along with Michael (who will be leaving in the summer to plant a Grace Hills daughter church). We’ve also witnessed the re-birth of a student ministry under Brian and Melissa, served hundreds of hours with local organizations, baptized a dozen new believers, and sent fifteen people to Honduras. And from leading the Honduras trip to being a really, really good friend, Neil continues to bless my soul! His co-leadership at Grace Hills is pretty cool to watch. He sings and plays, yes, but he personally disciples and leads too.
Though I’ll write more about 2014 elsewhere, I’ll just mention that in the upcoming year, we are launching a second weekend service, sending two families off to Papau New Guinea and another out in our region to plant churches, and officially beginning a Celebrate Recovery ministry.
I’ve written a book.
I was approached by Jevon, a talented Editor with Charisma House, asking if I would consider writing a book under their Passio label, which markets to young, creative types. I began and completed the marathon of book-writing and finished Rewired, which is set to release on February 4, 2014. You can read more about the book here.
I’ve met and ministered to church leaders.
In 2013, Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox grew by about 7,000 subscribers and pastors.com’s traffic and reach soared. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. What’s really thrilling is what happens behind-the-scenes as Pastors are connected to other Pastors and people are helped.
Every day, I email new subscribers asking where they serve, what they’re passionate about, and how we can serve them. Out of those emails, we’ve helped church leaders break growth barriers, deal with depression and burnout, solve problems and crises in their churches, and reach more people for Jesus.
Writing a book, editing a website, and preaching sermons is the stuff I think about in terms of accomplishments. But the bigger story is that 2013 was a year of tremendous personal growth in my life. I discovered victory over some long-term struggles, came to see myself as a broken man in need of rescue and recovery, and re-discovered what intimacy with Jesus looks like all over again.
Has it been a good year? It depends on who you ask. It’s been a tough year for those who have lost jobs, lost loved ones, and lost their freedom in various parts of the world. It’s been a horrific year for those enduring persecution and genocide, for those who have remained in slavery and bondage, either literal or spiritual. And I suppose it’s been a good year for those who have made a buck, built a career, grown a family, etc.
I’m hesitant to call it a “good year.” What I will say, unequivocally, is that in the year 2013, God was very, very good. And I’m fully expecting Him to keep it up… forever.
If you don’t know Jesus, or if you don’t know if you know Jesus or not, please, please, reach out to me. I can’t promise you a good year, and God doesn’t do so either. I can, however, promise you that God is good. You can trust Him!
Every designer struggles from the same phenomenon. As much as we stress over pleasing clients, we find it even more challenging to please ourselves. We are our own worst critics. But I’ll add that designing for our spouse probably tops the list. If there is anyone I want to make happy (and whom I believe deserves a sweetly designed blog), it’s my awesome wife, Angie.
So we’ve just re-designed her blog to be a bit more… Angie. I think she has ultimately struck a pretty neat and unique balance between “feminine” and “cool.” It’s slightly retro, a little crafty, and honors basic principles of typographical hierarchy. Introducing Angie’s blog, Wife In Ministry!
Note: No husbands were harmed in the making of this website.
It’s ancient Hebrew poetry, and it’s found in the midst of wisdom literature. So if you understand the biblical context of Proverbs 31:10, it makes sense as a rhetorical question. “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies.”
As Solomon recounts the advice of his mother to him about finding the ideal woman, she concludes that the ideal woman can’t be found. But the purpose is not to say that no women are virtuous, but rather to make a point: virtuous people are rare. They shouldn’t be, but they are. And if you find one, you’ve found someone of great worth to her world.
I once wrote about this passage that the woman in the passage didn’t exist, and that no woman should have to live up to some of the sermons we’ve preached from these verses. I’ve always thought it was funny how male Pastors stand in pulpits on Mother’s Day and call upon women to live up to this lofty standard of womanhood. I don’t know about the rest of my brethren, but I’ve given up on trying to be an expert on womanhood.
Here is what I do know – I married a virtuous woman.
Most of the people reading this blog post won’t understand. You won’t get it. You’ll think I’m writing this because that’s what you’re supposed to do on Valentine’s Day – blog about your sweetheart. But I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this. God gave me the priceless gift of a virtuous wife.
He gave me a wife who, in a sense, puts me to shame, takes me to school, and outshines me! I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean that in all the ways I’ve failed her, I have ultimately failed to deserve one who has been so good, so faithful, and so loving toward me.
I’m madly in love with Angie Cox. I want to chase her and make her mine each day. I don’t always live up to those words. Some days I’m in a bad mood, I’m selfish, or I’m thoughtless and insensitive, so she suffers. But when I’m in my right mind, when I come to my senses, I know her worth is far above rubies. She’s worthy of a chase. She’s worthy of pursuit.
Angie, I so appreciate you. I’m so proud of you. I’m so grateful you’re here in my life. You’ll never know what a difference you’ve made in me. And I think you’re wonderful. You’re beautiful. You’re full of class. You’re a delight from the smile you wear to the flowers you put in your hair. I love your laugh. I love the way you love our kids. I love the way you help to keep me in line, which is at times an enormous job.
I read a statistic this morning. 80% of men, if given the opportunity to choose again, would still choose to marry their present wife. How sad that it isn’t 100%. I can’t imagine anybody else at my side.
Angie, you’re awesome, and I love you. And I’m so glad that every time I ask “will you be my Valentine,” you still say yes… so far.
Who can find a virtuous woman?… Me!! I found one!!
Today is the day before Thanksgiving. In years past, I’ve gotten to spend this day with my family, either in the car traveling, or with extended family. I miss that today! I’m sitting in my office at Saddleback, which I enjoy, but not nearly as much as being with Angie. Let me tell you why…